Near the end of Parshas Ki Seitzei, the parsha begins to discuss a variety of “life event” topics that are important to know. Among these, it discusses marriage and divorce. The pasuk dealing with divorce has one of the most famous rabbinic discussions attached to it. The pasuk says, “וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־לֹ֧א תִמְצָא־חֵ֣ן בְּעֵינָ֗יו כִּי־מָ֤צָא בָהּ֙ עֶרְוַ֣ת דָּבָ֔ר” “And it will be that she (the wife) will not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her a matter of immorality” (Devarim 24:1). In this case, the pasuk says you are allowed to divorce your wife.
In the last Mishna in Maseches Gittin, there is a famous discussion about what qualifies as a עֶרְוַת דָּבָר. Beis Hillel says simply burning her husband’s food is a good enough reason. Rabbi Akiva says that even if he finds someone more beautiful than her, he is justified in divorcing her. This obviously is a puzzling Mishna. The pasuk uses the word ערוה, meaning immoral, to describe the woman being divorced. How are these examples of immorality? And even if the pasuk used a different description, burnt food and outer beauty are reasons to get divorced? What is the machlokes here between these great rabbis?
Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains that the Torah is teaching us about the concept of marriage. Burning food is a ridiculous reason to end a relationship; the Torah is teaching us something profound about relationships. Every man and woman must look at their spouse like she/he is the wisest, most beautiful, most wonderful person they know. And while they may not like certain traits their spouse possesses, it shouldn’t take away from their overall image of them. However, if their relationship arrives to the point where burnt food is equated with immoral activity, where you are tempted by outer beauty even after everything your spouse has done for you, it is obvious and apparent that this relationship will not last and the Torah allows you to get divorced. So it’s not the fact that she burnt his food that he is allowed to divorce her, it’s what his reaction to the food represents.
This level is not an easy one to reach, to have two totally different people come together and develop such high opinions of each other. But marriage itself goes against the laws of nature, as evidenced by another famous statement of Chazal found at the beginning of Maseches Sotah. The Gemarah explains that Hashem is the true source of every proper marriage. Then the Gemarah explains further, “וקשין לזווגן כקריעת ים סוף” “It is hard (for Hashem) to make couples like the Splitting of the Red Sea” (2a). Rashi explains this statement that just like Hashem had to change Creation in order to split the sea, pairing couples together also requires a change in nature.
But why does the Gemarah say it is difficult for Hashem? He is all-powerful; changing nature for Him is easier than lifting a finger is for us! What difficulty does He have in splitting the sea or making shidduchim?
Reb Yaakov explains that Hashem created the world in total perfection; the way the world runs on a day-to-day basis is the best way for it to be run. The sea wasn’t supposed to be split, it was always supposed to remain whole. By splitting it, Hashem made nature less than perfect since it was in an unnatural state. So to change nature is “difficult” for Hashem since He is removing perfection from the world (though it’s being done for a greater purpose).
It works the same way with couples. Man was created alone, so by nature, he was meant to be alone. However, Hashem has constantly and continuously changed the nature of the world and placed people together. This is what makes shidduchim so “difficult” for Hashem. So while it may be difficult for us to place those we love on pedestals, if Hashem is willing to remove His perfection from the world, we should be even more willing to do the same.
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